SunPower monitoring system review and comparison
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SunPower is one of the most well-known solar brands in America and provides a premium suite of home energy products called the SunPower Equinox system. One aspect of that system is the ability to monitor solar power production and home energy consumption. This monitoring is accomplished through the mySunPower smartphone app.
SunPower’s monitoring solution is a great addition to its hardware offerings and helps keep users up to speed on how their solar system is working. Let’s explore the key features and functionality of the mySunPower monitoring app and compare it to other solutions on the market.
SunPower has offered monitoring of its solar installations for some time using a special piece of hardware installed alongside its solar panels called the PV Supervisor (PVS). This small box provides monitoring of solar energy production and grid energy usage and communicates with SunPower’s cloud-based servers over Wi-Fi or Ethernet.
Using the mySunPower mobile app, owners of SunPower systems can access their data and see how much power their solar panels are producing in near-real time, and can also see graphs of how much energy their system has made and how much they’ve used per hour, day, month, and year.
The app features up to 5 tabs, depending on the hardware present in a given installation. Every mySunPower user can see the Home, Analyze, and Profile tabs. SunPower customers with a SunVault battery get the SunVault tab, and those with panel-level data get the Panels tab.
Screenshots of the five mySunPower tabs. Image source: mySunPower Android app
In the Home tab, users see their solar system’s production and their usage from the grid. Every SunPower system includes current transformers (CTs) that attach to the home’s main grid connection to monitor home energy use. The PVS accepts the input from these CTs, as well as wiring from the panels, to keep tabs on all solar production and consumption.
The SunVault tab shows the current state of the battery and allows users to choose between different operating modes: self-supply (daily charge and discharge), Reserve (keep the battery full in case of a power outage), and Cost Savings (discharge during peak times with a set minimum level reserved for backup).
Using the charts on the Analyze tab, users can see data for their home consumption, solar production, discharge to the grid, and battery usage. The chart defaults to the current day’s data, but users can scroll through days using the arrows next to the date or choose monthly, yearly, or lifetime charts.
These charts are also linked to each hour’s sunset, sunrise, and weather conditions. The weather is also shown for each day in the monthly display, and users can swipe a finger along the x-axis to cause production and usage numbers from any day to appear at the top of the screen.
Screenshots of the monthly charts and graphics on the mySunPower app’s Analyze tab.
By scrolling down on the Analyze tab, users can access the Energy Mix and Savings sections as seen in the image above. These infographics show how much of the total energy usage in the home came from solar, and also include an energy bill savings estimate and information about the environmental benefits of the system. These sections are available for each of the time periods, so their numbers update based on whether the user is viewing the daily, monthly, yearly, or lifetime chart.
For users whose installer has activated it, the Panels tab shows near real-time data about current power and running daily energy production, as well as a tabular display of panel status and daily energy production. The display is updated every 5 minutes with the latest data.
Information displayed on the Panels tab of the mySunPower app.
Panel-level monitoring is a newer feature that requires the solar installer to register and set up each panel in a layout, so many SunPower users won’t have access to it yet, if ever. SunPower has been reluctant to provide this functionality in the past, simply because the microinverters that report the data sometimes disconnect and stop providing data even though they continue to make power. Seeing that a microinverter isn’t communicating might frighten users into thinking their system isn’t working properly.
To allay any fears its users might have about what happens when their panels aren’t showing energy production, SunPower provides a status indicator icon next to the panel’s serial number in the tabular display. The color of the icon informs homeowners of the status of each panel and can assist in any troubleshooting the installer needs to do.
There are four different status indicators:
SunPower says that when a panel isn’t reporting energy produced, the issue usually resolves itself within 48 hours. If you’re uncertain about whether your system is still making enough energy even though one or more of your panels has an icon color other than green, you can check total system production, which is measured by the PVS at the wires that come from the solar breaker box. You can compare your current production to historical numbers to see whether there appears to be an issue.
When it comes to solar monitoring systems, SunPower is one of the best. The company has been doing a lot of work on the mySunPower app, bringing its functionality in line with the other best offering, Enphase monitoring. That’s not surprising, because SunPower uses Enphase microinverters in all their residential installations.
Here’s a quick rundown comparing the industry’s top monitoring systems:
|Daily solar production||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Home consumption monitoring||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Compare time periods||No||Yes||No||No|
|Public link to data view||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Manage EV charging||No||No||Yes||Yes|
*SunPower per-panel monitoring is only available if an installer configures and activates it
**SolarEdge per-panel monitoring is only available for installations with DC power optimizers
SunPower has long had a reputation as a provider of a “premium” home solar experience. The Maxeon solar modules they use are some of the most efficient commercially-available solar panels in the world, and the company prides itself on its customer service. The monitoring app matches this reputation with a nearly full set of features and a beautiful user interface.
Someday soon, we look forward to seeing SunPower move into home energy management, with smart EV and home circuit controls. For now, their app is highly usable and enjoyable, showing useful information and giving users control over how their solar energy is stored and discharged from their batteries.